Access and Aspirations: clashing philosophies for larp and life: guest post by Jessie Cattes

Another bit of wisdom from Facebook. I’ve been thinking much more about accessibility at larp recently – on account of being a bit more responsible for it than previous at Wing and a Prayer  and All For One. There’s so much I don’t know. Wiser heads were clear on how accessible Wing And A Prayer is: much of the action is entirely accessible sitting down, for example. For All For One, where what started as a straight “The event is not accessible. We’re sorry.” got much more granular about how the event was inaccessible, thanks to some overheard wisdom from Emma Round. As a result we hope more folk might consider it could be for them. 

Anyway. More wisdom below. 

This is the sort of essay that should really be on a blog rather than FB, but maintaining a blog is something for me that is aspirational. In other words it’s a good idea, I could do it, I’d be good at doing it, but it is beyond my current capabilities and limitations. It would be a stretch.

I mock PD’s use of the word aspirational all the time, but actually, it is close to my own philosophy on life. Shoot for the stars and you might hit the moon, right? I always have too much on, balls I am juggling that I am likely to drop, projects I am ignoring. For example over the last few months I have been organising for three/four additional college placements. They are all things I really want to do, that will be beneficial, that are within my base line capabilities. Recently, I have got to the point where I had to let one of them fall by the wayside. The work I did towards it was still useful, and I might well pick it up again in the Autumn. In the process of working towards it I sorted out a bunch of tasks that needed doing anyway.

The point is the journey, right? The stuff you do along the way.

When I first got a job with a salary and line management, I had real problems with this. The task lists I would show my manager would be full of “nice to achieve”s and then she’d get shirty because to her putting a project idea down in writing was a commitment to achieving it. Significant expectations clash. I never managed to convey to her that if you give me a task list with 100 items on it I will achieve 80 of them, but a task list with 80 items on it, even the same 80 items, I will probably only achieve 60 of them. Eventually I stopped working aspirationaly, mentioned only what I was utterly committed to, and took the hit to my productivity because it was better than fighting about it.

When writing ODC we often had a rule that the first draft of a plot you didn’t worry about achievability, feasibility was for editing passes. If you thought the plot needed 100 elephants, you should write them in. Later we would either improvise elephants, or work out why we didn’t need them. It made our writing ambitious. We got very, very good at pulling stuff together out of spit and string. I think we ran a better larp because of it.

Aspirational, innit?

Access is not aspirational. It’s the ground. It’s not something where you can say “yessss that sounds like an amazing idea!” and then not follow through 100%. Unlike in many other creative fields, acheiving 50% of your goals here is not a positive. It is actively putting people at risk of harm. It is treating their basic needs like the unreasonable demands of 100 elephants.

It’s one of the few places in larp where it may be better to say “no, but” than “yes, and!”

It is not shooting for the stars and reaching the moon. It is shooting for the stars and crash landing in the Atlantic three minutes after take off.

If your thoughts about access are “wouldn’t it be great if we could!” then what you need to say when asked is “we can’t”.

Aspirational thinking gets you achievements you might not have known in advance that you can manage. Accessible thinking gets you a solid baseline of what is achievable.

It’s not even like these two things *can’t* marry up into ways of managing accessible achievements you didn’t know were possible. We’re all creative types around here. But if you god audience electricity goes down, you run a worse larp event. If the electricity running someone’s CPAP goes down they can get incredibly ill. These two things are not comparable.

Electricity is not “available”. Electricity is “almost certainly available”. There’s a difference.

Treating the two things the same is a significant problem.

Which is not to say that any field larp needs to guarantee unfaltering electricity and even surfaces with no rain! Just that it needs to communicate its worst case scenario, and not its aspirations, in this specific context. Like I had to learn to.

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